The Capitals lost 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguin on Friday, but that may not have been the biggest loss of the night for Washington. A team already dealing with a large number of absences lost both Martin Fehervary and Tom Wilson who each left the game with upper-body injuries.
Losing to your rival is bad, but it is one game in an 82-game season. Potentially losing two of your most important players to injury is far worse.
Fehervary left the game in the second period after a high hit by Brock McGinn. The hit caught Fehervary in the head and he dropped down to the ice. After several moments, he immediately went down the tunnel and did not return.
"[Fehervary] was kind of just trying to chip the puck and go by me," McGinn said. "I stayed in my lane and we kind of just made contact. I don't think I was dirty at all. That's it."
The play happened so fast, the Caps did not express much outrage after the game. No one seemed to have a good enough view of it to conclude whether it was dirty or not.
"Marty went to move the puck off the stick and the player came through him and his head snapped pretty good," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think that is what they are evaluating.”
"I think when he goes down like that, I think there was some contact to the head, I'm pretty sure," Lars Eller said. "Was it the principle point? I don't know. I'll leave it up to other people to judge that."
Later in the period, Wilson was tripped on a rush on net and slid into Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. He appeared to hit his head on the goal post and was seen clutching at his helmet afterward. He also was flexing his hand when he stood up. He remained on the bench, but Laviolette confirmed this was the play in which he was injured.
When the team returned for the third period, Wilson did not return with them.
Laviolette had no update on either player saying they were both being evaluated. On the game broadcast, it was said that Fehervary was in concussion protocol.
Already missing Nicklas Backstrom, Anthony Mantha, Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd and Trevor van Riemsdyk, losing Fehervary and Wilson could be a potential disaster. Fehevary is a top-pair defenseman who has been paired with Carlson for the entire season. Wilson is a top-line winger and a player in whom other teams must account for whenever he is on the ice.
The response after the game from the players, however, was muted. This is a team that has almost grown numb to players coming in and out of the lineup. Two more players out, no matter how significant, just seems like par for the course at this point.
That played out on Friday as the Caps entered the third period down 3-0 without Fehervary and Wilson and still mounted a comeback, drawing the score to 3-2 before an empty-net goal finished them off.
"It seems like when we get down, the odds are against us, our game elevates," T.J. Oshie said. "I can't tell you why that is, but I've watched it from up in the rafters and saw a little bit tonight. I thought we came on the third period with a different mentality than we had in the first two. Just next guy up. There's a lot of young guys getting a lot of opportunities which is good for them, good for the organization for them to grow, but obviously we want everyone to be healthy and get back."
With the Caps facing a quick turnaround playing the second leg of a back-to-back in Buffalo on Saturday, the mentality once again is next man up.
"We get a turnaround tomorrow and go back at it and work on our game, learn from our mistakes," Oshie said. "Hopefully the boys are doing good in the training room there and away we go."